Thursday, April 28, 2016

Paul and the Faithfulness of God Chapter 9, Part 2

51YyKVMJh L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_We continue with chapter 9, Book Two and Part III of Paul and the Faithfulness of God, vol. 4, Christian Origins and the Question of God, by N. T. Wright. This is a long chapter but I will cover it in two posts, recognizing that this is still a very brief summary of this very important book. The first part of chapter 9 is here if you would like to read it. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

The Spirit is also key to the redefinition of election. He also, to Paul, was to be identified as God. The Spirit was the new Shekinah of YHWH returned to his temple, the church.

For Paul at least, the spirit was not simply a generalized or sub-personal divine force that later theology would turn into a third ‘person of the Trinity’. As far as Paul was concerned, the spirit, just like Jesus, was doing what YHWH himself had said he would do. The spirit was the further, and ongoing, manifestation of the personal presence of the one God. 711

Wright then points out several passages that show that the Spirit is the personal presence of God completing the Exodus of His people, as promised in Deuteronomy and the prophets. In Paul's language about the Spirit and Son, Wright sees a "a nascent Trinitarian monotheism," not in the philosophical language of the Church Fathers, but of 2nd Temple Judaism.

God sent the son; God sent the spirit of the son, making ‘you’ no longer slaves but sons, just as in the Exodus story. And the point, not to be missed in the middle of all this dense exposition (Galatians 4.3-11), is that with this sending of son and spirit we now know the name of God. We have discovered, fully and truly, who YHWH is. 718–719

The Spirit, understood as the outpouring of the personal presence and energy of the one true God, enables his people to do what the Shema required, to love God with the heart, with the strength (Romans 6:12–23; 8:12–17)), with the mind (8:5–11; 12:1–2) and if need be, as with Akiba himself, with the life (8:31–39). 722–723

The spirit is the one through whom the new Exodus comes about, and with it the Deuteronomic fulfilment/renewal of the covenant, the keeping of the Shema, the loving of God from the heart and (not least) the establishment of the community as the true temple. 727

In Ephesians Paul discusses the main symbol of this Jewish monotheism redefined around Jesus: the unified church. No longer was the temple the worldview symbol of God's people, but it was the gathered, unified by the Spirit, praying community. This new community would challenge both the Jewish and Roman rulers and only its theology built on the resurrection and unity in the Spirit would provide the strength to endure the persecution that would follow.

You, he says to the ex-pagans of western Asia Minor, are no longer foreigners or strangers, separated from God’s people: you are being built into the new temple. The central symbol of Israel’s life, of second-temple Jewish aspirations, is being reconstructed—in bits and pieces, scattered all over the pagan world. It is no longer a temple of stone, timber and fine decorations. It is a temple consisting of human beings, a structure ‘in the lord’, the Messiah being its cornerstone and the living God dwelling within it in the person and power of the spirit. This is Jewish monotheism all right, but thoroughly and controversially revised and reframed. 729

Ultimately the goal is not to "prove" that Jesus is God, but that He is the Messiah-King who will perform what YHWH was predicted to do in bringing the kingdom - the complete restoration of God's rule. (1 Corinthians 15)

When Paul wrote of Jesus (and the spirit) in the ways we have observed, he was doing so, not in order to affirm their ‘divinity’ for its own sake (indeed, he was presupposing it), but in order to affirm that in and through Jesus and the spirit the one God had established his kingdom in a totally new and unexpected way. The point of declaring ‘Jesus is lord’, with the full sense of Kyrios we saw earlier, was not, then, that one might feel happy about having made a crucial dogmatic confession. The point was to sign up under the banner of this Kyrios, implicitly at least against all other claimants to that title, for the kingdom-work in which Paul and his colleagues saw themselves engaged. 733

In the final section of the chapter, Wright turns to Paul's view of the plight of evil and God's solution to it. Again, unsurprisingly, he sees it firmly grounded in Jewish creational monotheism and reworked around Jesus and the Spirit. The Jewish view recognizes that evil is in the world, though it does not focus so much on its entrance. It is there, in the garden at the beginning of the story, (the serpent) and is made worse by idolatry, quest for empire and the poor moral decisions of humanity.

The various accounts of evil functioned, not as scientific ‘explanations’, but as signposts to dark and puzzling realities. Human rebellion, idolatry and arrogance, mingled with shadowy forces from beyond the present world, had infected the world, humans and Israel itself. The narratives drew attention to different apparent elements within the problem, and left it at that. 740

The fact that one cannot really understand evil is itself an element of creational monotheism, a demonstration that evil is an intruder, a force not only bent on distorting and destroying the good creation but also on resisting comprehension. If one could understand it, if one could glimpse a framework within which it ‘made sense’, it would no longer be the radical, anti-creation, anti-God force it actually is. 742

Idolatry, in other words, isn’t just something you choose to do from time to time. It gives away the responsibility which humans should be exercising over the world to unpleasant and destructive forces. Within human life itself, idolatry becomes habit-forming, character-shaping, progressively more destructive. It enslaves people. Ultimately, it kills people. And it allows creation itself to collapse into chaos. 743–744

Wright's point here is that Paul's widened understanding of the Messiah and his role led to a widening of his understanding of the plight of the world. If Messiah had to die to "save" the world, the world's problem was much deeper than could be dealt with by the OT law. Sin infected all people, Jewish and Gentile alike. What was required was the death and resurrection of the Messiah  which provided new life through the Holy Spirit to his followers and defeated the spiritual powers of evil, so that humans were no longer subject to the law and power of sin. This would be the first step in the larger plan to redeem all of creation.

(Paul) came to the conclusion that the fact of the crucified and risen Messiah, and of his place at the heart of Jewish monotheism, went hand in hand with an equally radical revision of ‘the plight’ both of the world and of Israel. 751

When humans are ‘saved’, rescued from sin and its effects and restored to their image-bearing, heart-circumcised, mind-transformed vocation, then, according to Paul, creation itself can and will be rescued from the bondage to decay which has come about through the human derogation of duty. As for the humans themselves, they will be raised to new life as part of this larger scene, rescued from the death which was the natural entail of that sin. 754–755

The plight to which the gospel offers the divine solution was the plight of the whole created order, with the specifically human predicament as a vital element within that larger picture but by no means comprising the whole picture in itself. 757

Paul takes the problem back deeper and further than Israel to the real enemy, sin and death. The corruption of Adam is so deep that it required a change of heart, a deep cleansing of the infection of sin and death within the human being done by the Holy Spirit. Paul the Pharisee saw this happen with pagan Gentiles in a much more profound way than he had seen in his torah devoted peers. Both Jew and Gentile needed a "new heart."

In several passages Paul makes it clear that this spirit-given character is in fact the kind of human life to which Israel’s law had been pointing all along, but which it had been powerless to bring about. The giving of the spirit was seen by Paul, after all, as one of the central eschatological gifts: it was another sign, correlated exactly with Jesus’ resurrection, that the new age had dawned at last, and that with it a new transforming power had been unleashed into the world. 759

The problem of ‘sin’, in other words, was not simply that individuals faced the divine wrath. The problem was that Israel, being infected with sin like everybody else, could not carry forward the divine purpose...What is required, and what has been provided in Messiah and spirit, is the ‘justification’ of a new people, in advance of the final day: a transformed covenant people, a remodeled Abraham-family. 760–761

‘Salvation’ was now revealed as God’s rescue from the ultimate enemies themselves. The death and resurrection of Jesus transformed Paul’s Pharisaic belief in the bodily resurrection of righteous Jews, to share in the coming kingdom of the One God, into a radicalized version of the same hope: the hope for a totally renewed cosmos and for the people of this One God to be given an immortal physicality to live in it. 762

The coming wrath that will be revealed by God in judgment also deepens the 2nd temple Jewish view of the plight of the world. The problem was more than pagan idolatry or even Israel's unfaithfulness. But the death and resurrection of Jesus shows that the problem of sin and death was an infection that went back to Adam and thus, more universal than they had thought. It required the death of the Creator and a transformation from inside through the Holy Spirit.

The creator God would indeed save the world through Abraham’s seed. Israel would indeed be the light of the world. But all this, Paul believed, had been fulfilled, and thereby redefined, in and around Israel’s Messiah and the holy spirit. What Israel and Torah between them could not do, Israel’s God had now done. He had been faithful to his promises. 772

Discerning the crucified Jesus at the heart of the Shema meant that Paul had signed on in the service of a lord who had won his kingdom through his own death at the hands of Rome, and who had promised that his followers would inherit their own glory through similar suffering. 773

PIU Spring Newsletter

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The latest issue of The Tide’s Currents, the PIU newsletter is available now at http://piu.edu/files/2016/02/April-2016-Currents-Newsletter.pdf  This issue highlights the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the school in Chuuk as MIBS and the 25th anniversary of PIBC beginning on Guam, which also included the annual PIU Days event. There are many pictures of these events, It also includes messages from the founding and current presidents, a student and alumni profile and other information about what is happening at PIU. You can get on the mailing list for The Tide’s Currents by sending an email to advancement@piu.edu. You can learn more about Pacific Islands University at PIU’s Web site and on our official Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Graduation Invitation–Please Join Us!

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Pacific Islands University will hold the 2016 Graduation activities on Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30. The Baccalaureate Service will be held on Friday, April 29 at 6:00pm at the Onnuri Church in Mangilao (next to Father Duenas Memorial School).  The Graduation Ceremony will be held on Saturday, April 30 at 10:00am at the Abundant Life Church in Dededo (off Route 3, one mile past the old NCTAMS McDonald’s).

The 2016 graduates include four candidates receiving the Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies, two receiving the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, and one receiving the Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies. The graduates will receive their diplomas from Dr. David Owen, President of PIU. They will be congratulated by PIU trustees, other members of the PIU Administrative Council, the PIU faculty, friends of PIU, and the families and friends of the graduates.

This year’s Commencement Address will be given by the Honorable Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief Judge of the US District Court of Guam.

Graduation Program 2016-1

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reading in Samuel This Week #3 (2 Sam. 1-12)

Samuel coverWe are continuing to read through Samuel (originally it was one book) accompanied by 1 and 2 Samuel, The College Press NIV Commentary, by James E. Smith.  The first part of the book of 2nd Samuel tells the story of David’s rise to kingship and the covenant blessings God gave to him and brought to Israel through him. However, David flawed actions will ultimately bring disaster to the nation. The previous posts on Samuel can be seen here and here. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

2 Samuel begins with rise of David to the kingship of all Israel, as God had promised. First, David makes it clear that he did not have a part in killing Saul and that God had raised him to the kingship. He then follows God's direction to go to Hebron where he is made king of Judah and reigns for 7 years. Most of these years are full of conflict as he battles with Abner, Saul's general, who supported Saul's son as king of most of Israel. David does everything he can to make peace and resolve the conflict in a way that keeps the tribes together, but David's associates, Joab and Abishai, take personal revenge and foil David's attempts for peaceful resolution. David is seen as a good and wise king by the people and does many things well, but small defects can be seen - he gathers at least 6 wives into a harem like the Canaanite kings - which will cause problems later. Nevertheless, David's greatest trait was that he refused to do any unethical activity to gain the kingship. He trusted God to make it happen.

For David the greatest curse which could befall the earth was the incapacity to render service to the Lord. 2 Samuel 1.21-22, 344

Ish-Bosheth was a mere tool in the hands of Abner who by kindred, office and personality was the natural champion of the house of Saul... Abner made him king, perhaps with the concurrence of the tribal elders (cf. 2 Sam 3:17). The kingship of Ish-Bosheth had no religious sanctions attached to it, and its only foundation was the hereditary principle. 2 Samuel 2, 349–350

One of the great qualities of David was his willingness to recognize the virtues possessed by opponents. He spoke of Abner as a prince and a great man in Israel. 2 Samuel 3.38-39, 366

Clearly the sons of Rimmon miscalculated David’s attitude to the house of Saul. The king began his response to Recab and Baanah with a solemn oath formula, "as surely as the LORD lives" to which is added the clause "who has delivered me (lit., “my soul”) out of all trouble." These words suggest that one who trusts in God has no need to commit crimes for his own defense, or sanction such crimes by others. 2 Samuel 4.9-11, 369

Chapter 5 begins the story of David's reign with his anointing and recognition by all the tribes of Israel and then provide "highlights" of his reign, which include the blessing on his family (although his many wives would lead to the downfall of the nation), pivotal battles, establishment of the capitol in Jerusalem and, most importantly, the return to the new capitol of the real king, YHWH, as the ark was brought into Jerusalem and it was established as the worship center of the nation.

David had a divine appointment to be Israel’s ruler. The belief that God had promised the kingship to David may have been based on rumors of his anointing by Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 16:13), and/or the signs he had given of being possessed by God’s Spirit (cf. 2 Sam 3:18). The course of events seemed to confirm the divine appointment of David since no viable alternative to him existed. The verb shepherd is used here for the first time with reference to a king in Israel. 2 Samuel 5.1-2, 372

Chapters 6-7 are the pivotal chapters of 2 Samuel. In them David shows his devotion to God by enthroning the ark of God in Jerusalem. God responds in chapter 7 by naming David and his family as the human rulers under his authority. David has to learn his lesson, as he brings the ark into the city, that everything must be done in God's way. When David wants to build a temple for God, God tells him that he will build a dynasty for David. David's humble submission to God, which Saul's daughter despised, is the faith response God desired to create covenant with David. Chapter 8 relates that God gave the nation peace and victory, which is the result of the human ruler's faith and submission to God. Chapters 5 and 8 frame this section with accounts of victories over Israel's old enemies.

The ark was called by the Name of the Lord Almighty, it belonged to him. Name connotes that which the Lord has revealed about himself, especially his personal presence. The ark was his throne. He sat, as it were, on the mercy seat which was between the cherubim, the wings of which were stretched out over the ark. Thus the ark was the visible symbol of Yahweh’s presence and of his covenant with his people. 2 Samuel 6.1-2, 384

Chronologically, ch. 7 is not in order. Most likely the chapter relates an event which occurred fairly late in David’s reign. The Narrator has placed this incident here for topical reasons. He has just spoken of the moving of the ark to Jerusalem. Now he relates how David wished to build a house for that ark. Here is a pivotal text in Old Testament theology. The Nathan oracle constitutes the title-deed of the Davidic house to rule Israel and Judah. 2 Samuel 7, 391

The narrative places in stark contrast the spirit of Saul’s house in which Michal had been brought up, and that of David. During Saul’s reign the ark had been neglected, and the instruments of true religion had been ignored. Why Michal found David’s actions so disgusting is not stated. Perhaps for the first time she was observing the depth of David’s devotion to the Lord. Then again, perhaps her idea was that the king should avoid mixing with the people, and be aloof and inaccessible. In any case, the basic problem was that Michal did not share her husband’s enthusiasm for the ark. 2 Samuel 6.16, 388

Numerous prophecies, based upon the promises made here, announced the coming of a glorious ruler from the house of David. The “foreverness” of these promises points beyond David’s son Solomon. Jesus the Messiah is a son of David. He is God’s son par excellence. He is currently building a spiritual temple. On the cross he experienced the disciplinary rod of God, not for his own sins, but for the sins of others. He sits even now upon the throne of God in the heavenly places. 2 Samuel 7.16, 396–397

Chapter 9 moves its focus to David's dynasty and is known as the "succession narrative." It begins well with victories over formidable enemies, but David's flaws begin to show again as he abuses his authority to take what he wants (Bathsheba) with no regard for what God says, or for the loyalty of a faithful soldier. "Uriah drunk is more pious than David sober" (424). David's actions here will turn the succession into several bloody civil wars, lead to the division of the kingdom in the next generation and, in the long run, sow all the seeds for the exile and destruction of the kingdom. Disregard for God's boundaries and misusing God-given authority for personal gain almost always lead to disaster even though God's forgiveness and grace are available.

The account of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth serves several purposes: (1) It demonstrates that David kept his word to Jonathan. (2) It introduces two characters (Ziba and Mephibosheth) who figure prominently in David’s later struggles. (3) The account also underscores that David sensed no threat from the former royal family. (4) The kindness toward this son of Jonathan also indicates the soft side of David’s personality. 2 Samuel 9, 412

The Bible in no way glosses over the heinousness of David’s sin. The ugly episode recorded in this chapter is the key to the history of the rest of David’s reign. Herein lies the explanation of the sudden gloom which settles over his kingdom. 2 Samuel 11, 419

The point is that David must act honorably even with regard to the Lord’s enemies. God would punish him by taking away from him the child who recently had been born. Thus the visible occasion for any further blasphemy against the Lord and his people would be removed from the scene. This is not the case of an innocent child being punished for the sins of the father, for that concept was abhorrent to Mosaic faith (Ezek 18). The death of the adulterous offspring would demonstrate to all skeptics that the righteous rule of Yahweh could reach and punish the king himself. 2 Samuel 12.1-14, 430

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sunday at PIU

Faith Sunday (1)

Faith Sunday (9)Yesterday was the last official Sunday of the semester at PIU. The students are taking final tests this week and Saturday will conclude the on line classes. So we decided that we would go to church together as a school. The students and staff wantedFaith Sunday (2) to attend Faith Church where our advisory board member and adjunct faculty member Tom Van Engen (right at the pulpit) is the pastor. Usually our students attend many and various churches on Sundays so we had not done that in a long time. Faith Church has been a long time supporter and partner of PIU and I always enjoy fellowshipping there when we go. It was great time of fellowship and we ended the service by holding hands in a ring around the church (above) and sang the “island song,” “Don’t you know that we are brothers and sisters in Christ?” Arie enjoyed the service as well (left).

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The PIU students sang “God is So Good” in 8 island languages, including English

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Then we headed back to campus for a combination end of semester lunch, going away party for Mike, Samantha and the kids….

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and a celebration of Courage’s eighth birthday

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I wish I could figure out what Serenity and Chloe were talking about here. It looked like a serious negotiation.

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Arie was able to get in a little walking with help from grandma and Gwen

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Roasting Hot Dogs and Marshmallows

Friday evening (2)

Friday evening (3)Friday Friday evening (4)night we promised to have the three oldest grandkids at our house for a sleep over. The big attraction was the opportunity to roast and eat marshmallows and hot dogs. We started with the marshmallows, by popular demand, but we did get all three of them to eat a hot dog too. They were also going to camp out in the backyard, but, for some reason, they decided to sleep inside on regular beds. This made grandpa so happy that he fell asleep on the couch! We had an enjoyable evening, there was dancing with glow sticks, we did not set the jungle on fire and nobody got sick. So it seemed like a successful event to me.

Last Chapel of the Spring Semester

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Last April Chapel (4)Last Friday Last April Chapel (1)was the last chapel of the Spring semester. Next week will be finals week and then Friday the 29th baccalaureate will happen at 6pm at Onnuri Church. Then the 2016 graduation will take place Saturday morning the 30th at 10 at Abundant Life Church. We invite the public to those events. Friday we closed the chapel season with a spirited worship time and challenging exhortation from PIU Trustee Siska Hutapea. Siska is a leader in the local business community and she challenged the students to integrate their faith into whatever they do. She emphasized hard work and preparation to do excellent service as marks of godliness. She also said “if I can do it, you can do it too. She also blessed all the PIU family by buying pizza for everyone for lunch. Thank you Siska. As you can see above the students enjoyed it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Senior Chapel 2016

Senior Chapel (1)

Every semester at PIU one of the two chapels in the final week is the “senior chapel” in which the graduates get to share their insights with the rest of the students. This semester we had 4 graduates interact with the students (two did it through previous interview and two were in the chapel). Scott Refilong and Riklyn Rikat were live in the chapel while last summer graduates, Mary-Jane Edwin and Nonie Jones were interviewed for their contribution. With the 3 December graduates we will have 7 graduates for the 2016 commencement on April 30. 

Senior Chapel (2)Senior Chapel (3)After student council president Melvin Fanoway led us in prayer (left), Scott and Ricklyn talked about their plans for the future and a little about their experiences at PIU. Scott will be doing an internship this summer at the Liebenzell Mission USA headquarters in Schooley’s Mountain NJ and then is looking for god’s direction after that. Ricklyn is planning on building on her AA degree with further education at PIU or at University of Guam.

The students were asked a few questions about their time at PIU. Here are a few of their answers. First question was What degree are you graduating with and what are you going to do with it? …

MJMary Jane:  “I am graduating with a AA degree in Liberal Studies Right now, I'm just focusing on furthering my education. I'm actually attending UOG pursuing my BA in accounting.”

Nonie: “I am graduating with my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts. I'm not sure what I will be using it for but I will be continuing on my studies at UOG for my Bachelors in Accounting.

What was the most fun PIU experience?

Scott: My first PIU Days in 2012.

Ricklyn: Coming into the dorm for the first time and meeting the RA’s and other girls.

Mary-Jane: Chapels & Focus nights. I enjoyed the sermons, music, prayers, games, etc.

imageNonie: I would say the most fun experience would be just life everyday with the staff and students. The community is just great. There's really a difference from where I am now, UOG. I love how it's very family oriented. There's always something to do. Whether it's we work, having beach days, going on shopping trips, cleaning at night with my small group, chapel, focus, bible study. I would say the whole PIU package would be my most fun experience.

What advice would you give the students?Senior Chapel (6)

Mary Jane: Focus & study hard, but most importantly is to fear God and always put Him to be the center of their studies.

Scott: Don’t be afraid.

Nonie: Don't mess up your grades. Try hard no matter how lazy you get. Also communicate well with your professors. Don't just stick to staying in doors. Have volleyball games and help the staff in the office. Life gets hard outside the PIU walls. Try try and try. Don't give up !

All the students seemed to agree that Mike’s Critical Thinking class was the hardest one they had ever taken

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

PIU Spring 2016 Staff Appreciation Dinner

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We are into the last two weeks of the Spring semester. So last  night we held our annual PIU Staff Appreciation Dinner at the Fiesta Resort World Café. The food was excellent, the fellowship was great and I think a good time was had by all. We are very blessed to work with our wonderful PIU family. Here are a few pictures of the event

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Nino Pate, our MC, kept things moving. Not hard since everyone was moving quickly and often to the buffet

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Mike and Samantha shared a little about their upcoming plans. They will be leaving for Cincinnati, Ohio where Mike will be in a PhD program for the next three years. We will miss them, but know we will get them back as even better teachers. They received some nice parting gifts

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We all received gift certificates and raffle prizes. Joyce did not get to keep the carving on the right.

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Joyce took a few pictures of our PIU faculty, staff and volunteers enjoying the evening. A big thank you to everyone who makes PIU happen. We could not do it without you.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Paul and the Faithfulness of God Chapter 9, Part 1

51YyKVMJh L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_We now move on to Book Two and Part III of Paul and the Faithfulness of God, vol. 4, Christian Origins and the Question of God, by N. T. Wright. With this section, the chapters get even longer so I am going to divide each chapter discussion into two or three posts, but what you are getting here is still a very brief summary of this very important book (Read it!). I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Wright focuses his discussion of Paul’s theology on “election.” In a nutshell, Wright states that Paul has reworked his view of election and participation in the covenant family of God from the Jewish markers, such as circumcision and torah, to being “in Christ,” based on the death and resurrection of the Messiah, and the transformed life created by the indwelling Spirit.

The theme of ‘election’ is the best frame within which to understand Paul’s soteriology, and that ‘election’ in turn is only properly understood within the larger frame of beliefs about the One God and the promised future (and the particular problem of evil which only emerges into full light once the reality of the One God has been glimpsed). Soteriology thus remains at the centre. 611

However we describe what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus (‘conversion’? ‘call’?), its effect was not that he rejected everything about his Jewish life and thought and invented a new scheme, with or without borrowed non-Jewish elements, but that he thought through and transformed his existing Jewish worldview and theology in the light of the cataclysmic revelation that the crucified Jesus had been raised from the dead. 611


In Book 2 Wright deals with Paul's theology. His main point is the Paul's theology is built on the framework of "Jewish 2nd Temple 'Theology'" and its three main elements: monotheism, election and eschatology. However, this theology has been "Reworked and reimagined based on Jesus' death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit, and Paul's conversion experience on the Damascus Road. On this basis the kingdom of God extends into the pagan and Jewish worlds.

For Paul, the gospel rendered people more human, not less, renewing the vocation of bearing the divine image, reflecting the divine wisdom into the rest of the world and reflecting the praises of creation back to its maker. This vision carried, from the start, strong and sometimes subversive meaning for real, public life. 614

Paul believed, after all, that with the crucified and risen Messiah the One God had tipped his hand, had drawn a line through the world, had placed a swift bisecting bar through the rectangular box, had refocused the edge-lured minds of the world onto this new strange centre. That is indeed how empires think. Paul believed in a different empire, a different kind of empire. He called it the kingdom of God. 617–618

In chapter 9 Wright focuses on the idea of Jewish monotheism and sees the cornerstone of Paul's theology as "The One God of Israel, Freshly Revealed" in Jesus Christ and in the church. The focus is not so much on Ontological oneness, but on God as the creator of all things, with one kingdom plan for His people and for the world. It was this belief that gave the community its coherence.

Jewish monotheism was rooted in prayer, particularly in praying of the Shema. To pray this prayer was not to make a subtle affirmation about the inner nature of the One God, but to claim the sovereign rule of this One Creator God over the whole world, and to offer oneself in allegiance of mind, heart and life itself in the service of this God and this kingdom. 624

If Paul’s communities were going to be able to hold onto their very identity, to retain coherence and unity on the one hand and holiness and hope on the other, they needed to know who the God was in whom they were putting their trust, not as an armchair question for those who liked to muse about distant supernatural realities but as the day-to-day immediate lifeblood for those facing social, cultural and political challenges which could at any moment turn into a repeat performance of the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes or an advance foretaste of Hadrian’s crushing of the bar-Kochba rebellion. 625

Thus, the world was a good place marred by sin and idolatry. He rejects dualism. The spirit world is part of the creation and eventually God's kingdom will take place regardless of them.

To affirm the ‘oneness’ of Israel’s God meant, in practical terms, a cheerful and guiltless partaking in and celebration of the world as a good gift to humans, a world full of strange beauty, massive power and silent song. In particular, and following from the vocation of human beings to reflect God’s wise order into the world, this kind of monotheism included the vocation to humans in general to bring God’s justice to the world: justice is to human society what flourishing order is to the garden. 628

If belief in the existence of lesser but still non-human powers did not undermine the strong belief in the unity of the One God, so too belief in the reality of demonic powers did not undermine the strong belief in the goodness of the one God. Such a belief merely reminds us, if we needed it, that believing in this God did not mean believing that everything in the world was just fine as it was, with no problems and nothing much to hope for. 632

The Jewish monotheist, looking out on the world, understood evil to be the result of idolatry, not of an inherent badness within creation itself, and looked for the day when Israel’s God would set up his kingdom of justice and peace. 633

To hold this view means that one must suffer as the Jews did during the post-exilic years. Empires do not like people who are loyal to the one God who is a higher authority even than empire. Nevertheless, because this God is One Creator and Judge, God's people, when persecuted can rejoice because they know that they will inherit God's kingdom.

(In Romans 8), halfway between the Maccabees and Akiba, we find a monotheism as Jewish as theirs, as contested as theirs, as dangerous as theirs, as trusting as theirs, as Shema-based as theirs, and yet radically, breathtakingly different. The same God is now revealed as the father who sent the beloved son to die. The same suffering is now understood in the light of the death of God’s son. The same faith, hope and love; but now at a different moment: the time of new creation, introduced by the resurrection of God’s son. 636

Paul reaffirms the goodness and God-givenness of the created world, of food and drink, of marriage and sexuality, of political structures; the goodness and image-bearing vocation of human beings; the coming judgment at which the creator will put the world to rights, in line with the promises in the Psalms; the danger of idols and of the dehumanizing behaviour that results from worshipping them. He is, up and down, a classic second-temple monotheist, and he must have been fully aware of the fact. 641

Jewish-style monotheism, rethought from top to bottom around the events concerning Jesus, is the necessary anchor for the radically revised worldview in which the united community, in its faith, worship and holiness, is the sole visible symbol. 641–642

How then could 1st century Jews regard Jesus as the One God, as YHWH? How did Jesus come to be worshiped as God? Wright goes through several views of how this happened and shows that this "high Christology came very early. His main point is that it came through reflection, based on the resurrection, on eschatological passages in the OT that described the coming of YHWH to bring in His kingdom. What the OT promised God would do, Jesus did.

The early Christians, already by the time of Paul, had articulated a belief in the ‘divinity’ of Jesus far more powerfully, and indeed poetically, than anyone had previously imagined. Paul can, in fact, assume his (very ‘high’) view of Jesus as a given. 648

The long-awaited return of YHWH to Zion is, I suggest, the hidden clue to the origin of christology.
654

Early christology did not begin, I suggest, as a strange new belief based on memories of earlier Jewish language for mediator-figures, or even on the strong sense of Jesus’ personal presence during worship and prayer, important though that was as well. The former was not, I think, relevant, and the latter was, I suggest, important but essentially secondary. The most important thing was that in his life, death and resurrection Jesus had accomplished the new Exodus, had done in person what Israel’s God had said he would do in person. He had inaugurated God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven...Jesus’ first followers found themselves not only (as it were) permitted to use God-language for Jesus, but compelled to use Jesus-language for the One God. 654–655

Jesus brought together the Exodus theme of the presence of God in the pillar of fire, and the "return to Zion theme" of the prophets which later Jewish wisdom writing saw as coming through the presence of "wisdom" personified. Wright shows how Paul brings together these themes throughout his letters, but especially in Galatians 4.1-11, Romans 8.1-4 and 1 Corinthians 8.3-6.

The Jesus who is spoken of in Galatians 4:4 is thus not only Israel’s Messiah and the representative of the new-Exodus people; he is the embodiment of the one God, returning as promised to rescue his people. This is a christology of divine identity, specifically of Exodus-shaped and then Messiah-shaped eschatological monotheism. 658

This is (Rom 8.1-4), in other words, new-Exodus theology, in a freshly messianic mode, once more placing the church on the map at the point where the people are being led through the desert by the personal presence of the one God. 659

Just as the Exodus was launched by the coming of Israel’s God in person to rescue his people, so the new Exodus has been launched by the long-awaited return of this same God in and as Jesus himself. Paul’s use of the Shema here (1 Cor. 8.3-6) is, to repeat, not a detached dogmatic aside or maxim to be drawn on in a pragmatic ethical argument, but a statement of eschatological and monotheistic divine identity. This is what it looked like when Israel’s God came back at last. 663–664

As Paul "reworks" the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8.6, the point is that the One God worshiped in the OT includes Jesus, and we give him exclusive worship based on the victory that the Father accomplished through the Son, in the cross, as one holy people.

Jesus is not a ‘second God’: that would abrogate monotheism entirely. He is not a semi-divine intermediate figure. He is the one in whom the identity of Israel’s God is revealed, so that one cannot now speak of this God without thinking of Jesus, or of Jesus without thinking of the One God, the creator, Israel’s God. 666

Think through what it means that the monotheism upon which the worldview now rests has the crucified Messiah at its centre... The Messiah’s death is thus not simply a convenient way for God to deal with sins. It reflects the heart and character of the one true God, and that reflection must shine through the life of the community that invokes this One God, One lord. 667

Monotheism means that the lord owns all things and gives them freely to you. But this also means that you must worship him alone, and that you must abjure the behaviour that idolatry awakens. 669

Next Wright goes to Colossians 1 as an example of Jesus being seen as the Creator God, as wisdom, returning to dwell with His people to set His creation right. This would be in line with inter-testamental Jewish wisdom books which link Proverbs 8.22 "wisdom" to the prophecies of the return of God's presence with His people in the Temple. He then goes to 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 to show that Paul sees Jesus as fulfilling the Exodus event in which God returns after exile to "tabernacle" with His people.

This is, then, a christological monotheism which is most obviously creational, affirming the goodness of the original creation and announcing the dawn of its renewal. It is also eschatological monotheism, in the inaugurated sense that Jesus, as the divine Wisdom, is in himself the God of Israel who has returned to dwell among his people, and in the future sense that looks ahead to the final accomplishment of what has been launched in the Messiah’s resurrection. 676

The God who would not show his face to Moses has shown his face to his people in and as Jesus. To speak of seeing ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Messiah’, in the context of a long discussion of Exodus 33–34, can only mean one thing. The God who abandoned Israel at the exile, because of idolatry and sin, but who promised to return one day, as he had done in Exodus after the threat of withdrawing his ‘presence’, has returned at last in and as Jesus the Messiah.  679

He concludes the section, about God returning to Israel in the person of Jesus, with a longer discussion of Philippians 2.6-11. The passage "evokes" Isaiah 40-55 in which the "Servant" returns to Israel as King and through Him God returns and sets the world right. Paul has "rethought Jewish monotheism" (Isaiah 45.23) around the death and resurrection of Jesus so that the God of the Exodus has come back to His people to set them free from sin and death and remake the world into what he intended it to be.

Somehow the work of the ‘servant’, and specifically the redemptive achievement of his suffering and death, are the manifestation in action of the divine ‘righteousness’, the accomplishment of the divine ‘salvation’, and above all the full expression of what it means that YHWH, Israel’s One God, has at last returned in glory to Zion. He has come back to be enthroned, not only as Israel’s true king but as king of the world. 682

Jesus is not a new God added to a pantheon. He is the human being in whom YHWH, Israel’s one and only God, has acted within cosmic history, human history and Israel’s history to do for Israel, humanity and the world what they could not do for themselves. Jesus is to be seen as part of the identity of Israel’s God, and vice versa. Israel had longed for its God to return after his extended absence. Paul, like the writers of the gospels, saw that longing fulfilled in Jesus. 683–684

It is not just that Paul has made Isaiah 45:23, that most sternly monotheistic of texts, the key with which to unlock the mysteries of the Messiah’s identity and achievement. The door which swings open when that key is turned in the lock is the door to the entire scriptural vision of Israel’s one God working out his sovereign purpose through his obedient, and as often as not suffering, servant, and then exalting that servant to power and glory. The radically new note—that the one thus obedient, suffering and glorified is somehow identified as Israel’s God himself in person—is of course dramatic and startling, but it does not distort or subvert the larger picture. 688

In the second section of this chapter Wright shows that the resurrection of Jesus identified (along with the their ongoing experience of the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit) Him as the Divine Messiah, and allowed the early Christians to redraw the Messianic passages of the Old Testament around Jesus. It also allowed the OT verses about Messiah, Son of God to take on a deeper significance marking Jesus as the incarnate 2nd person of the Trinity.

The starting point is the meaning of the resurrection itself. When Jesus was found to be bodily alive again three days after his crucifixion, in a transformed physicality for which there was no precedent or expectation, this convinced his first followers that he really was Israel’s Messiah. 691–692

What I am suggesting is that the resurrection, demonstrating the truth of Jesus’s pre-crucifixion messianic claim, joined up with the expectation of YHWH’s return on the one hand and the presence of the spirit of Jesus on the other to generate a fresh reading of ‘messianic’ texts which enabled a full christological awareness to dawn on the disciples. 692–693

What marked Jesus out, what made the early Christians say ‘he really was God’s son’, was not his death, but the resurrection which vindicated the claims, both explicit and implicit, he had made during his public career, and which therefore unveiled the identity he had possessed all along—and which therefore also unveiled a new and hitherto unsuspected meaning for his death: a decisive, redemptive meaning.

It is important to stress here, as I have done elsewhere, that though the resurrection thus unveils what was there before, it does not confer or create a new status or identity for Jesus. 699–700

The next section discusses Paul's use of Kyrios as a designation for Jesus. Often Paul quotes the Septuagint using the word kyrios, which translates YHWH, to refer to Jesus. Though Paul differentiates the Father and Son, he still sees Jesus as YHWH come to fulfill the promise of YHWH's return to His people.

We have here (Romans 14.7-12), then, a probable further coupling of Jesus’ messianic identity (as the coming judge) with his embodiment of the returning YHWH himself. 702

The final ‘coming’ of YHWH will be both a reprise of the Sinai theophany and a restoration of Genesis 2. The Pentateuch completes its circle, with the prophets pointing to the same fulfilment. The coming kingship of YHWH over all the earth will be his final claiming of sovereignty, as in several psalms, in Daniel and elsewhere; and this will mean the renewal of all creation. 705

Then Wright discusses whether Paul refers to Jesus as God: θεοͅς. The only places where he appears to are Titus 2.13 and Romans 9.5. While he agrees that Titus 2.13 is debatable, he sees Romans 9.5 as both grammatically and contextually calling Jesus "God."

The identification of Jesus with YHWH seems to have been part of (what later came to be called) Christianity from more or less the very beginning. Paul can refer to it, and weave it into arguments, poems, prayers and throwaway remarks, as common coin. Recognizing Jesus within the identity of Israel’s One God, and following through that recognition in worship (where monotheism really counts), seems to have been part of ‘the way’ from the start. 709

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Trip to Pohnpei

PNI Trip (15)

PNI Trip (3)After spending three days in Chuuk, I headed to Pohnpei. My main goals in Pohnpei were to teach my eight Old Testament Survey students at the Ohwa Theological College facility (pictured above) and begin the process of setting up a PIU classroom and computer lab for our distance education center there. PNI Trip (4)We began teaching on Pohnpei in January with two internet based classes there: my OT Survey class and Spiritual Formation taught by Dr. Brad Boydston. Earlier in the semester I oriented my students to our Moodle site where the class materials are presented and, this week, prepared them for the final exam. Pictures here are from the restaurant where I met with OTC administration.

PNI Trip (12)We are also setting up a distance education center in Kolonia in partnership with the New Tokyo Medical College at the other end of the main island in Pohnpei. This will allow more Pohnpeians access to our programs. NTMC is partnering with PIU so that we can help them train medical personnel and medical missionaries for the islands. PIU will provide their undergrads with our AA programs to provide the basic general education for the NTMC medical bachelor degrees. One longer term plan is that we will provide our Master of Arts in Religion program to their medical graduates to prepare them for medical missions. The idea of Micronesian doctors going out as medical missionaries is very exciting.

PNI Trip (7)PNI Trip (8)

On the left are the students in the library classroom. On the right is the room we are planning to convert to our PIU computer center and DE classroom at Ohwa. The plan is to deliver the classes by interactive on-line video connection.

Reading in Samuel This Week #2 (Chapters 13-31)

Samuel coverThis week we complete the first book of Samuel reading along with the the commentary, 1 and 2 Samuel, The College Press NIV Commentary, by James E. Smith.  The second half of the book of 1st Samuel tells the story of the demise of “the people’s choice,” Saul, and the corresponding rise of God’s chosen king David. Though David was deeply flawed, he is set apart by his trust in God and devotion to His kingdom. The previous post on Samuel can be seen here. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapter 13 begins the story of King Saul which will continue through the rest of 1 Samuel. The first section shows that Samuel was right about how "the people's choice" would fail them. Saul quickly deteriorates from a man of great potential, to a foolish king, and finally, to a faithless, paranoid, power-hungry oppressor of his own people. In 13-15, Saul's foolish decisions and actions are contrasted with the wise decisions and heroic actions of his son, Jonathan. A cause of this foolishness seems to be that Saul desires to be the absolute ruler of the people and the center of their attention and allegiance rather than God. The foolish oath and the disobedience with the Amalekites show that he is not qualified to be to be king. Samuel announces that God will reject the dynasty of Saul chosen by the people and make his own choice for a king.

The important thing is that he needed the prayers and support of the old prophet of God. Furthermore, he needed Samuel’s advice (cf. 10:8). By proceeding with the sacrifice, Saul was indicating that he thought he could make war upon the enemies of his kingdom without the counsel and assistance of God through his prophet. He therefore had acted presumptuously. 1 Samuel 13.1-14, 179

In this chapter Saul is depicted, not so much as wicked as foolish and frustrated. His intentions were good, even pious, but he pursued them in self-defeating ways. On the other hand, Jonathan here receives “such marks of divine approval, and such acclaim of the people, as befits a king." 1 Samuel 14, 183

Samuel describes the essence of disobedience. Rebellion against God’s word and arrogance are here essentially synonymous in meaning. Saul presumptuously had arrogated to himself the right to decide how far he should fulfill the divine instructions...All conscious disobedience is actually idolatry, because it makes self-will into a deity with more authority than the Creator. Opposition to the word of God is like idolatry because the god of self has usurped God’s place. 1 Samuel 15.23, 207

It is precisely because God is unchangeable, that in His dealing with men He must seem to change His action as they change their conduct. This is one aspect of the great problem which runs through all religion, how human free-will can coexist with the Divine Sovereignty. Scripture is content to state both sides of the question, and leave conscience rather than reason to reconcile them. 1 Samuel 15.11, 29, 208–209

Since God has rejected Saul, the story now turns to God's choice for king, David. Samuel is told to anoint God's future king, but he must do it secretly because Saul is still in control and has already begun his sharp descent into madness and jealousy. David already has a reputation for bravery and godliness and is brought into Saul's service. God has begun the training of his choice for king. The confrontation with Goliath brings David into the public eye and begins his ascent to the throne. It also highlights the greatest difference between David and Saul: David centered his life on God and trusted wholeheartedly in Him. Saul in this section does not pray, seek God or refer to God in any way. David is thus the man to lead Israel because he trusts in God for victory, not his own abilities.

This anointing was a prophetic indication of the man whom God, in his own way and at his own time, would place upon Saul’s throne, without either scheming or action on the part of either Samuel or David. 1 Samuel 16.12, 214

(Goliath) cursed David in the name of his Philistine gods. This curse had the effect of turning the military encounter into a theological struggle..While the Philistine would not name his god, David did not hesitate. The mere name of Yahweh would be sufficient to topple this giant...If David appeared to be lacking in arms, it was because Yahweh had no need of them. 1 Samuel 17.41-47, 228–229

David, in his integrity, immediately becomes an irritant to Saul, who is concerned that David is trying to usurp his throne. Saul realizes that God has chosen him and tries to manipulate the situation to remove David. David refuses to compromise his integrity or loyalty to Saul by playing that game. However, everything Saul does to destroy David, God uses to enhance his reputation and prepare him for kingship. Saul's own children become allies to David against their father. David understands that God has called him to be king and that he must rely on God alone for this to happen.

Jonathan had taken little interest in David as a minstrel; but his heroism, modesty and manly bearing, his piety and enthusiasm kindled in Jonathan, not merely admiration, but affection for the son of Jesse. Jonathan became one in spirit with David...The thought is that Jonathan recognized in David a kindred spirit. 1 Samuel 18, 233

These verses are particularly damaging to the reputation of Saul. He had sworn a solemn oath that he would not kill David. Since the reconciliation, the only event which has been related is that David had been successful in fighting the national enemies. So the narrative is stressing just how mean-spirited and unjustified and even irreligious were Saul’s attacks on David. 1 Samuel 19.9-10, 245

At this point in the story David permanently leaves the court of Saul. Jonathan, though he has a hard time believing that his father wants to kill David, helps David escape. In return, Jonathan asks for a covenant between their two families. Jonathan emerges as a hero here, as he is willing to accept God's choice as king, even though it reduces the status of his own family. Throughout chapters 21-22 Saul shows his unfitness to be king and it begins to become obvious to the public. Saul loses the allegiance of both priests and prophets by his treatment of Samuel, and then, the murder of the priests and their families at Nob. David continues to grow in influence and honor as he trusts God and refuses to take action against Saul, while Saul continues to descend into madness and paranoia.

David became an outlaw when he was forced to flee from the court of Saul. Still God was blessing him. Gradually his power and influence increased even though Saul was doing everything within his power to track him down. 1 Samuel 21, 267

“Until I learn what God will do for me” points to David’s faith and piety. Even before this pagan king, David spoke as a man of God. His life was in the hands of God. 1 Samuel 22.3, 270

The main point of ch 22 is that David, though a fugitive, now has a prophet (Gad) and a priest (Abiathar) supporting his cause. He must in the end prevail over Saul because God is truly with him. 1 Samuel 22, 276

The contrast between David and Saul continues in the following chapters. David continues to act like a king (with the one little glimpse into David's dark violent side in his oath to destroy Nabal) by protecting Israelite cities from the Philistines, while Saul continues to put the nation in jeopardy with his vengeful, paranoid pursuit of David. God continues to speak to, lead and rescue David while Saul is reduced to making decisions based on what he sees. God has clearly chosen David as king and rejected Saul and this is becoming evident to the public. Even Saul's son, Jonathan, recognizes God's choice of David to be king.

Though Saul had all the resources of the kingdom at his disposal, he was powerless against David because the invisible King of Israel declined to permit Saul to touch him. 1 Samuel 23.14, 281

"A man’s character is known by his actions." To avenge oneself is wicked, and David’s deeds clearly prove that he was not evil. 1 Samuel 24.13, 289

The point of the whole verse is this: since David was one who would be greatly blessed, he could afford to be gracious. Abigail implies that killing a man out of personal revenge, unlike the killing of enemy soldiers in fighting the Lord’s battles, would be a blot on David’s clean record. Abigail is now the fourth person (along with Samuel, Jonathan and Saul) to forecast kingship for David. 1 Samuel 25.28, 301

1 Samuel 26-29 describes the last meeting between David and Saul and the subsequent faithless actions each man took after that meeting. After David demonstrates very graphically again to Saul that he will not take matters into his own hands and kill him, he realizes that there is nothing he can do to make Saul stop trying to find and kill him. So David leaves Israel, disobeying the commands of God, and goes over to God's enemy, the Philistines. Saul, desperate for guidance, seeks the supernatural guidance of Samuel through a spirit medium, also forbidden in scripture. God delivers David from his predicament, but the judgment of death is pronounced on Saul. The difference here seems to be that David, despite his fear, still basically has a submissive heart toward God's plan, while Saul has no desire to follow God. The ironic thing in this section is that the Philistine soldiers are the only ones who tell the truth.

The Lord had delivered Saul into David’s hands that day, but David would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Just as he had valued the life of Saul, so he hoped the Lord would value his life and deliver him from all trouble. The events of the night once again assured David that he would be safe under the protection of the Lord. 1 Samuel 26, 310

Saul’s wickedness rendered him utterly unworthy to find favor with God. The tragedy here is that Saul did not cry out for divine forgiveness, but only for divine guidance. 1 Samuel 28, 319

The biblical Narrator is concerned in these verses to underscore three points: (1) that David retained the favor of a Philistine king under the most difficult circumstances, (2) that the duplicity of David while living in the land of the Philistines almost landed him in the awful predicament of having to go to war against his own people, and (3) that behind the scenes God so orchestrated events as to rescue David from this untenable situation. 1 Samuel 29, 328

In this section, God draws David back to Himself after 16 months in the land of the Philistines and away from God. After the Philistines reject his help, David finds Ziklag destroyed and the wives and children of his men taken. He now turns back to the Lord and the Lord gives him a great victory over Amalek, in contrast to Saul, and he is able to share the spoils of the battle with all Judah. Meanwhile, as David is winning a great victory, Saul is being destroyed by the Philistines, exactly as Samuel had predicted. God has now removed Saul from kingship, just as he said he would. David is now ready and prepared to take the role to which God had anointed him.

In ch 30 David appears as an admirable leader. He certainly is depicted as back on track with the Lord. He is energetic and decisive, compassionate and fair. Here he is generous with those who have been kind to him in his wanderings, and as a result he forms friendships which he retained and cherished long afterwards when he became the king of Israel. 1 Samuel 30, 334

While David was defeating the Amalekites in the desert, Saul was facing the judgment of God on Mt. Gilboa. 1 Samuel 31, 335